“…sail on the land…”


“So Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple, and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea, because his mind was elated.” (II Maccabees 5:21 – from the Apocrypha of the Old Testament)

Last week I happened on this seed that had unfurled its “sails” and set out across the field I was crossing.  What a wondrous spectacle of God’s creative genius.  The seed sails through the air like a ship through outer space.  Unfortunately, it’s sailing voyage across this field was interrupted by another plant that snagged the “sails” on its seed cone.  Because I was also trying to help some folks through relational conflicts this week I was reminded of many life voyages that are interrupted at times by a similar arrogance that wrecked Antiochus when he thought he could, “sail on the land.”

Antiochus was a king known for the conquest of Jerusalem and the slaughter of 40,000 men, women, and children.  His arrogance led him to believe he could do anything without suffering repercussions.  On the contrary, the Old Testament says his his blind arrogance for wealth and power finally led to his undoing and lonely demise. “So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains in a strange land.” (II Maccabees 9:28)

So I get it that most of us are not out there arrogantly trying to take over a country.  Where I most often experience our arrogance is when we find ourselves in conflict with one another.  Like Antiochus, our arrogance frequently leads to the disruptions of our journeys together and painful, lonely suffering.  It’s normal that we disagree with one another.  However, why do we engage in conflicts with that arrogant assurance that we’re “all right,” and the other is obviously “all wrong?”  That one, fatal stance can be the difference between a conflict that results in growth and closeness as we continue to travel together,  or a conflict that leads to the end of our journey and the parting of our ways.

“I’m completely right and you’re completely wrong,” is a defensive posturing that has its roots in hurt and all kinds of fears including the fear of being hurt again, the fear of being unloved if our weakness is exposed, the fear of feeling inadequate, the fear of not knowing how or being unable to change things about our self that we know are hurtful to others, etc., etc., etc.  The arrogance of being right becomes our shield and sword that deceptively keeps us from what we really want and need – relationship with one another.

God’s grace (love freely given in spite of our fears, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, etc.) is what we need to save us from our arrogance.  If I truly believe that God’s grace revealed in Christ for me will hold me “in spite of” that list of my own foibles, then I can take the risk of saying, “Maybe I’m a little right and a little wrong, and that leaves a gracious space for you to be both a little wrong and a little right.  That one careful course correction might just save the voyage together.  Arrogance wrecks what only Grace can build.

I pray that God will help me steer my course away from arrogance.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia

PS: You’re receiving Wednesday Wonderings a little early this week because bright and early tomorrow morning Patti and I will be leaving with our youth group and other adults for the national gathering of United Methodist Youth called YOUTH 2011 at Purdue University in Indiana.

Help save lives! For more information on my new book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

Check out my new video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on July 12, 2011.

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